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November 15, 2011

Tuesday Dantonio Presser notes

This is Denny Schwarze in for Joe. I was at MSU coach Mark Dantonio's weekly press conference and have some tidbits that I will deliver here.

Injury news first. Dantonio said sophomore defensive back Darqueze Dennard should make his way back after missing the remainder of the Iowa game with an injury. However, senior defensive lineman Johnathan Strayhorn will probably be out the next two games (and probably the Big Ten title game if the Spartans make it to Indianapolis) and will need arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

Dantonio also talked again the magnitude of the win on Saturday against Iowa. "I thought it helped us control our own destiny," Dantonio said of the win over the Hawkeyes. "We went there as a team and we won as a team, and I think that's what the most important thing is. There's two to go for us in our regular season and who would have though tthat after our Notre Dame game that we would be sitting here now? Because a lot of people sat and looked at the stretch we were going into and I'm sure many people had doubts, so we are sitting at the top of our division."

The Spartans can clinch the Legends Divison by winning their last two games or win against Indiana on Saturday and have Michigan beat Nebraska in Ann Arbor. Since Joe's last topic discussed the idea of rooting for Michigan on Saturday, I figured I'd post Dantonio's reaction...

"Nope, sorry, I can't. We just have to do it our own way. I'd be letting too many people down if I did," Dantonio said. "They have their issues -- both those teams have their issues that they have to deal with and their goals. We have to take care of ourselves and not look to the right or to the left. We have to look right down the middle forward, and that's where we're looking, Indiana."

So, the focus will be on retaining the Old Brass Spittoon, not what's going down the road in Ann Arbor in what is essentially a BCS at-large elimination game.

Dantonio also spoke on the MSU special teams and redshirt freshman punter Mike Sadler in particular. Remember when the Spartans were botching fake field goal attempts at Notre Dame and had a punt blocked against Central Michigan? That all seems like a distant memory now as the special teams unit has improved dramatically ever since Big Ten play started. Sadler was especially key during wins over Ohio State and Michigan and came up big again in Saturday's win over Iowa. In addition, if you remember the elements of those three games, not the most ideal weather to punt in at all. Michigan and Iowa didn't necessarily have a drizzle like the game at Columbus did, but the wind was whipping.

"I think in high school you punt a lot for distance, but he had the opportunity to sit and watch Aaron Bates. He's developed Aaron Bates' ability to kick the ball end over end at times in pooch punt situations and he can hang it up there. He's got an incredible leg, and he's very accurate, got great get-off times. And exactly what we hoped for happened when he decided to come here and sit one year. It was going to give him a little bit more experience than a normal freshman punter and then it was going to allow him to learn, but he's got a tremendous, tremendous ability, and again, he will be the punter here for the next three years, as well. Really felt like when he decided to come, that was solidifying our punting position, our punter position, for the five years because of Aaron Bates having one year left. He was as big a catch in that recruiting class as anyone," Dantonio said of Sadler.

That's all for now. I'll make sure to have some player stuff up here later tonight.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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